Hair Loss: What Can I Do?

April 8, 2024

It's estimated that 50% of men and women will experience hair loss at some point. There are so many contributing factors when it comes to hair loss and it takes some investigating to get to the root cause for each individual. We hear about all of these hair loss struggles when working with clients and we’re here today to talk about what you can do nutritionally to promote hair regrowth. We’ll cover reasons why someone might be experiencing hair loss and share the nutrients to focus on to help your hair grow back naturally.

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MELANIE: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Today we're talking all about nutrition solutions for hair loss. And if you're listening and you're experiencing hair loss, you're not alone. It's estimated that 50 percent of men and women will experience hair loss at some point.

Maybe you're reaching those menopausal years and noticing that your hair just doesn't grow like it used to and you've had to cut it short. Maybe you've recently had a baby and you're seeing in the mirror that your hairline is receding. We also know that hair loss can even be an unfortunate side effect of COVID, and there are so many contributing factors when it comes to hair loss and it takes some investigating to get to the root cause of each individual and what their issues are.

So we hear about all of these hair loss struggles when working with clients and we're here to talk about it today and what you can do nutritionally to promote hair regrowth. But before we get started, let me introduce myself. I'm Melanie Beasley and I'm a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. And joining me today is Monica Hoss, who is also a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. Welcome Monica. This is a treat getting to do the podcast with you.

MONICA: Yes. It's been a while. I'm happy to be here today with you to discuss this topic, which is so important to so many listening out there. I know it's something that I see in counseling. You know, we have that in-depth health questionnaire, and I would say a big chunk of clients are marking hair loss, hair thinning as one of the symptoms that they have.

Hair loss is a sensitive subject and can really take a toll on someone's confidence and self esteem. People are often too embarrassed or ashamed to talk about it and are trying every hair care product on the market promising to help their hair grow back. We have good news for you because there are steps you can start taking today to get your hair growing back naturally without all those expensive products and procedures.

Common health reasons for hair loss

MELANIE: Yeah, yeah. So that's right. First, let's go over some of the common health reasons why someone might be experiencing hair loss. As we mentioned, hormonal shifts are a leading cause of hair loss, and those hormone changes often come during menopause, perimenopause. So let's work on an understanding of what happens hormonally during this time in a woman's life.

During perimenopause, which usually it can start happening for women anytime between late 30s, early 40s, women ovulate less frequently and produce less of the hormone progesterone. And when women make less progesterone, our hormones get out of balance and it can make other hormones elevate and testosterone is typically one that rises.

It can be higher in men and more dominant. And this type of testosterone related hormone dominance leads to the hair follicles shrinking and hair becoming thinner and shedding more easily. This type of hormonal shift can also lead to more male pattern hair growth throughout the body like facial hair. Women hate that.

MONICA: Oh, yeah. There is nothing more frustrating.

MELANIE: Yeah. Losing the hair on your head and then feeling like you're becoming a furry individual is so frustrating for women, but we have hope. We have hope.

MONICA: Yes, yes. Keep listening. From another hormonal perspective, I'm at the phase of life where a lot of my friends, family members have had babies in the last few years and complain of losing their hair in that postpartum phase during the first several months after the baby is born.

This is so common, so let me explain why. In the third trimester of pregnancy, estrogen increases, which actually helps hair growth . That might be responsible for that pregnancy glow people talk about because your hair is looking extra full and healthy. Your skin is glowing. You've got a lot of good hormones going on.

Then after childbirth, estrogen plummets, causing hair to fall out from the follicles and shed. Now you're typically going to start seeing this a few months after the baby is born. A lot of times my friends will come to me asking for help on what they can do to get their hair growing back at this time of life that is often already so stressful. The last thing you want to worry about while taking care of a newborn is your hair falling out. It's already a stressful time. You’re not sleeping.

MELANIE: You're trying to get your body back to where it was before. It's a lot. So as we're on the topic of hormones, when a client steps into my office worried about their hair loss, you know, one of the first things I ask them is, have you had a full thyroid panel done recently?

Yeah, and I know you do too, Monica. So many times, if your doctor tests your thyroid, they only test the TSH or your thyroid stimulating hormone. This doesn't tell us the whole story. So if your doctor tested your thyroid and only told you that your TSH is normal and within range, that doesn't tell us much.

We want to look at the full thyroid panel to see if your thyroid is in a proper working order. And the reason why I bring this up is because hair loss is one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid. So if you're experiencing hair loss or thinning hair, including losing the outer part of your eyebrows; everyone run to the mirror and look; along with maybe poor fingernail growth, unexplained weight gain, low energy;

You feel sluggish, maybe you're depressed or constipated and feeling chilly and cold all the time. Those are some of those red flag clues that your thyroid may be underworking and slowing your hair growth. So often this condition goes undiagnosed. And so we're a little stricter in our clinics with the parameters that we like to see.

MONICA: That's exactly what I was going to say, Melanie, that even if you've had a full thyroid panel, which I, a lot of clients, it's usually just that TSH that they're bringing in, but I would still encourage you bring in that full panel so that we can look at it with our stricter parameters because chances are it might look normal to your doctor, but for us, we want to see those numbers a little bit different.

MELANIE: And our range is slightly different also.

MONICA: So one other hormonal correlation to hair loss that we see a lot is PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome. This condition is associated with insulin resistance, which shows up as weight gain in the belly area, as well as irregular periods. And unfortunately, oftentimes we're also seeing infertility.

When I see a younger woman in her twenties or thirties with a receding hairline, my thought goes to hormonal imbalance and a lot of times I'll start asking questions to see if they have been diagnosed with PCOS or have symptoms.

MELANIE: What would you say those symptoms would be?

MONICA: So a lot of times it is that difficulty losing weight and chin hair. And I'm not talking just one chin hair here or there. It's very apparent. A lot of times they're very uncomfortable with it; Can also see acne sometimes; asking about puberty, when they went through puberty, if that was delayed, sometimes that can be a symptom of PCOS.

MELANIE: Even some fertility issues, insulin resistance. So when you have a multitude of these symptoms, it's worth looking into.

MONICA: Yeah, because that can be another underlying cause of hair loss. And if that is the case, we want to focus on balancing hormones as well as fixing that insulin resistance through a balanced diet. They go hand in hand together and usually we'll see improvement in both things.

MELANIE: Yes. It's just balancing your blood sugar is a win win for everything, especially hormones and thyroid health. It all works together. Earlier we mentioned hair loss from the COVID-19 virus. And this has been a surprising symptom of COVID for many.

And even more unusual is that hair loss often starts happening months after someone contracted the virus. So even now that we're a few years past the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we're still learning about it and its side effects. And it will come as no surprise that contracting a virus is stressful on your body and your immune system.

Well, the hair shedding side effect is actually a stress response. Hair growth has its own life cycle and shedding is a normal part of the end of the cycle. We shed some hair every day. Of course, we see it in our hairbrush and that's totally normal. Well, when your body is under a lot of stress, like when fighting off a virus, your hair can go into the shedding phase more quickly.

So think about this: your body is trying to conserve all of its resources to fight the stressful event in your life. And so it's going to pull nutrition and pull resources from areas it deems unnecessary or the least important, and that's going to be hair and nails. So that's one of the first indicators.

MONICA: Yeah, and that's a good thing to think about if you notice that you're losing more hair. It might not be something that just immediately happened. We've got to go back a few months because that hair cycle takes time to grow and then fall out. So thinking back, was there something stressful in my life three, four months ago.

MELANIE: Oh yes. And then it seems like it's in the past, but then what happens is your hair is falling out and you're trying to see why is it happening? Did I change my shampoo? Did I…? And so we play detective in going back and that can be even emotional stress. It doesn't always have to be viral stress, such as in the COVID.

But from a COVID side effect standpoint, this shedding phase starts two or three months after contracting the virus. And the high amount of shedding can last for several months. It's very frustrating because you just don't know what to do. That's where frustration comes from. When is it going to stop? Is it going to stop?

MONICA: Right. And I mean, we're so attached to our hair that it's difficult to see changes for a lot of women.

MELANIE: Well, it affects us all the way around.

MONICA: And men too, let's be honest.

MELANIE: Well, yes, of course. Although they're less, a little less vocal or forthcoming.

How do we keep our immune system strong?

MONICA: Yes. So to keep our immune system at its strongest, it is especially important to be eating a real food diet like we always talk about. It's really important to cut out heavily processed high sugar foods, which are taxing on our immune system. You might remember the media attention that vitamin D got when it was correlated to the severity of COVID symptom outcomes.

For best immune support, we recommend your blood level be between 50 to 80 nanograms per milliliter. This usually requires supplementing if you're not getting adequate sun year round here in Minnesota. Really most of the U.S. though I think especially in the winter would benefit from supplementing. We suggest getting your levels tested at least once a year and if you're a long time listener to Dishing Up Nutrition you have heard us talk about the importance of vitamin D frequently and this is yet another reason why.

MELANIE: Yes. And I think we mentioned an article, research article that we read, and we mentioned it on earlier radio show podcast is that if you live in a Northern climate, you'd have to be in your bikini without sunscreen during prime time lunchtime for an hour to get adequate vitamin D in the summer. So, we usually recommend at least some form of vitamin D year round unless you're someone that is tanning, you know, all the time, which we don't recommend.

So a good amount of vitamin D, but if you kind of stay on top of your levels that's the best way. And if your level gets high, I never recommend just completely stop. I say, well, let's cut down on the dosage. You know, if you're reaching up to 100 nanograms per milliliter or something like that, but never do I say, let's just stop vitamin D.

And sometimes that's the advice I hear my clients are getting. So, if any of these situations we've discussed so far sound familiar to what you're going through, there's hope and we want to help you get to the root cause so that we can help you get your hair back. The foods that we eat have power in the health of your hair. We want to focus on giving your hair the nutrients that it needs to thrive. So we'll go to break and then we will come back.

You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. If you're struggling with hair loss, you are not alone and we are here to help. In February of this year, our dietitian Brandy recorded a special two part Ask a Nutritionist episode all about hair.

These episodes are called Why You Might Be Losing Your Hair and Boosting Hair Health. Brandy takes a wonderful dive into causes and solutions for hair loss. I encourage you to take time to listen to these special Ask a Nutritionist episodes for even more information on top of our discussion today.

To find these episodes, scroll down through the Dishing Up Nutrition episodes on your podcast app or on our website and click on the one that you're looking for. You can search in the tab and you can go to our website. Click on the podcast tab and also find all of our podcasts at


Nutrients for hair growth: discussing protein importance first

MONICA: Welcome back from break. Before we took a short pause, we were talking about common root causes of hair loss that we often see with our clients. Now let's get back to the discussion. We've gone over root causes of hair loss. So let's think about what nutrients our hair needs to grow. Hair is just like any tissue in our body in that it's made up of proteins. Think about how and what you've been eating through recent years or even throughout your life. For many of us, we were told to eat only small amounts of lean protein or mostly plant based protein.

With all the mixed messaging in the media, it's no wonder why people are confused. Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of all of our tissues, including hair. Let's think about this. If you're not eating an adequate amount of protein, then any protein that you actually are eating is going to go to your essential organs because that's priority. We got to keep that functioning.


MONICA: So hair is going to be a low priority then because it's not essential to survival. So we need to eat a lot of protein. And this is something that I've experienced. I was sharing with you, Melanie, that about six months ago I started eating a lot more protein. I had been following our recommendations, so I was eating an adequate amount, but I really went up to the more of the upper recommendations that we recommend for muscle building. And I have noticed that my hair is growing in thicker and feels more full.

MELANIE: I love that. And your hair is always lovely, but you know, you know, your own hair.


MELANIE: And I had a client come in and she, she looked great, but she said, my hair texture is just so weird. It's so weird now. And so we're doing that. We're going the, you know, much more protein. She was eating adequate, but you never know with each individual, what they require.

MONICA: And it takes time. It’s not a magic pill. I mean, this has been six months for me, so just for people to know that, that it's going to take time to see changes.

MELANIE: Well, you think about what do we grow typically by half an inch a month? When did you start noticing? How far in? Do you remember?

MONICA: Probably just recently thinking about it.

MELANIE: So a good six months.

MONICA: Mm hmm.


MONICA: Maybe four months into it.

MELANIE: Yeah, that's great. Well, when I'm working with a client on hair growth, I ask about how much and what kinds of protein they're eating. And unfortunately, when someone's been following a very low protein diet, that long term and they aren't supplementing correctly, They are not getting those essential nutrients for hair growth;

Like all of the amino acid building blocks, the B vitamins, especially B12, heme iron, which hemoglobin comes from an animal. So animal protein is really the complete protein our bodies crave. And it's more absorbable. The heme iron is a more absorbable form that we get from animals compared to plant sources, which obviously don't have blood or hemoglobin. So they don't have heme iron. So to get adequate protein, we want to aim for four to six ounces of animal protein at each meal and two to three ounces with snacks. I lean into five to six ounces per meal.

MONICA: Yeah, me too.

MELANIE: So you think chicken, eggs, pork, whole milk dairy if you tolerate it, beef, seafood, and the list goes on and on; simple phrase: if it has a face or makes a face or comes from a face, it's going to have that complete protein, and these all contain the highly absorbable proteins your body needs to grow.

Essential fatty acids from dietary fats are essential for hair growth

MONICA: So let's talk about another essential nutrient for hair growth, which are the essential fatty acids from dietary fats. Again, with the decades of low fat messaging, it's no wonder why many haven't been consuming enough dietary fat, and now their hair is suffering.

Healthy fats are essential for hydrating our hair follicles. So increasing your healthy fat intake could be part of the solution to your dry, brittle hair that breaks easily. One essential fatty acid we recommend to supplement with to boost hair growth is GLA or gamma linoleic acid. This is an omega-6 essential fatty acid and it is especially beneficial for hair, skin, and nails.

GLA is the compound in evening primrose oil, which might sound more familiar because it's often used for hormone balance and as a beauty supplement. Sometimes I have clients that are taking evening primrose oil, and they didn't really realize that it's GLA.

MELANIE: Yeah. Yeah. And I do see a difference with people, hair, skin, nails with GLA. Did you, do you take that?

MONICA: No, but I should.

MELANIE: Do you have dry skin? Well, I think everybody has dry skin in Minnesota and, you know, in the winter. But, I just wonder because I, I see a huge difference in my hair, skin and nails when I do take it and then, you know, I drop off taking it and yeah, we all do that.

So I had a client recently tell me that she ran out of her GLA supplement and forgot to take a, to get a new bottle to pick it up. And then as weeks went by, she noticed her nails were cracking, her skin and her hair were dry and brittle and it's occurred to her that she had not been taking the GLA for a while.

So it was a clear correlation for her. And the dosing is important as well. We recommend supplementing four softgels of GLA per day as a maintenance dose. And frankly, many women in the early days, they need more than that if they're really working on growing their hair back. So taking just one or two soft gels a day is typically not enough if you're trying a healing protocol for hair.

And I often recommend taking a couple with each meal so you're getting it continuously throughout the day because it's not so many capsules to swallow at once.

MONICA: That's a great tip. Because that's hard for a lot of people. You get pill fatigue.

MELANIE: You do, but, when you start losing your hair, I think a lot of people are, I'll do whatever, I'll do whatever you tell me to do. I love those clients.

MONICA: Yeah, me too. GLA is a great supplement for increasing healthy fats for hair growth. But we always come back to food first. So let's talk about some food sources of these essential healthy fats. We recommend for a healthy hair plan that you eat a serving of natural fat with each meal and snack.

Remember, healthy fats hydrate our hair follicles. This can look like a variety of nuts and seeds, grass fed butter or ghee, olive oil, avocado, and coconut oil to name a few. These fats make foods like vegetables taste delicious. And as a bonus, we are able to absorb the hair healthy vitamins from vegetables by adding in those healthy fats.

For example, vitamin E is an essential nutrient for hair health because it's in part responsible for helping build those tiny blood vessels that feed the hair follicle. Vitamin E also happens to be one of our fat soluble vitamins, meaning it needs fat in order to be absorbed by the body. What's cool is that many vitamin E rich foods are also naturally rich and healthy fats.

MELANIE: Mm hmm.

MONICA: Cool how nature works that way. You can find vitamin E in foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish. So each time you eat one of these healthy fats, you can think to yourself, I'm nourishing my hair.

Practical solutions to incorporate some of this healthy food mentioned

MELANIE: Yep. It works in so many areas. We need that healthy fat for so many processed in the body, but the hair and the nails, that's a big one. Now that we've covered some of the essential nutrients for hair growth, let's talk about some practical solutions of how to get these foods onto our plates, into our mouths and into our bellies each and every day.

So when I'm working on creating a meal plan with a client, I know you do this, Monica, and they want to improve their hair, I say, this is your hair growing meal plan so that they know this is your healing protocol. That way, as they are planning their meals at home, they can be thinking, how will I get in enough animal protein to provide the building blocks to grow my hair and where will my healthy fats come from with each meal and snack to nourish my hair?

And what vegetables will I eat today to feed my hair with the vitamins and the minerals it needs to grow? Sounds complicated. We make it very simple and this way it is like, it's a fun challenge of filling in the blanks of proteins, fats, healthy carbs to create your meals and snacks each day. And I help them come up with a menu, you know, so of what they like to eat.

MONICA: Yes, of course. Because we just went through all those questions. And for somebody that might be overwhelming to think about how to make it all work. So let me give an example of what you might need in a day to keep your hair growing strong.

For breakfast, personally, a go to for me is eggs, but I especially love our egg bake on our website, which includes nitrate free breakfast sausages. So the eggs and sausage adds up to about four ounces of protein per serving. I throw in a mix of whatever colorful veggies I have on hand. You can use canned coconut milk or butter if you can tolerate dairy as the fat to make it balanced. I make it in a nine by 13 pan. A lot of times I do this on Sundays when I'm around the house anyways, I turn on the oven, put it in and I eat it throughout the week for my breakfast, especially when I have a busier week because I don't have to overthink breakfast.

MELANIE: Yes. Great. And those, those squares freeze really nicely as well. So if you don't want it every day, they freeze and reheat really well.

MONICA: That's a great tip. For a mid-morning snack, you could have something like a protein muffin. I make this recipe often and I actually just tried our carrot cake protein muffin recipe that's on our website. Another favorite is the blueberry muffin. Both of these are on our website, They're easy to make. They're balanced with protein that's coming from the whey protein powder. And there's eggs in there. I add some butter for my healthy fat. And who doesn't love butter on a warm muffin?

MELANIE: And I do use the Paleo Protein powder because I can't do whey because I am dairy allergic. So there are options, so.


MELANIE: And I think those options are on our website as well.



MONICA: That works as well. And my kids love them too. So I feel good giving them a good balanced muffin. For lunch, I like to make something creative out of my dinner leftovers. For example, I'll use leftover chicken and mix it up with maybe some avocado to make a chicken salad.

You can use an avocado oil based mayo if you like mayo instead, but I'll make that chicken salad over salad greens; really delicious. We have a recipe for a Sonoma Chicken Salad on our website.

MELANIE: That's so good.

MONICA: Yeah. And then for an afternoon snack, again, I'm looking for foods that are ready to eat. So a lot of times I'll have deli meat roll ups wrapped around celery or baby cucumbers; sauerkraut, I'll use that too, with cream cheese or mashed avocado.

It gives it a delicious crunch that I really crave in the afternoon. Plus it's balanced with that animal protein, some vegetables, and a healthy fat. Another easy snack go to is making a protein shake. I use our whey protein powder and blend that up with whatever fruit I have to use up, and then a healthy fat like nut butter or canned coconut milk.

Then, for weeknight dinners, I usually roast meat like chicken or salmon with a variety of vegetables tossed in avocado oil. You can make it all in one sheet pan and it takes just a few minutes to prep and pop it in the oven. We have really busy week nights, so one pan meals are my jam. And we have a bunch of easy sheet pan dinner recipes on our website.

Again, that's So this is just one example of a day of eating in a healthy hair growth meal plan. And you may have noticed, I do tend to use a protein powder most days to boost my protein intake. Especially when you're first trying to increase protein, a good quality protein powder can be so helpful to meet your protein goals.

MELANIE: Yeah. You know another product I really like is a good collagen that has the collagen peptide, Verisol. Now we're not talking about your typical collagen you just buy in the grocery store. It's a medical food collagen that has that peptide, Verisol. And the Key Collagen is the one that I like and that specifically targets hair, nail growth. So that's what we're looking for and I recommend taking, you know, one to two scoops a day.

You can add a hot or cold beverages; it's pretty flavorless. That's also an, it's a protein boost, but that Verisol peptide is so key.


MONICA: Yes, collagen is great for that. We've covered a lot today. So let's review. For a healthy hair growth plan. We suggest eating four to six ounces of good quality animal protein with every meal, along with a tablespoon or two of healthy fat and a variety of vegetables to get in all of the necessary vitamins and minerals for hair growth.

Real food is always the foundation, and you can't out supplement a poor diet. But, if you do need additional support, we recommend supplementing with whey protein powder, Key Collagen, and GLA, which can give you that extra boost to help your hair grow back.

MELANIE: As always, you know, the best hair growth plan is going to be catered to each individual. So, if you feel like you want, an individual plan to help you with your hair growth, just reach out to Nutritional Weight and Wellness, ask to make an appointment with one of our dietitians and we'll get you on that hair growth plan. And you can call us at 651-699-3438 or visit us at

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And we just want to thank you for listening today because our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to provide each and every person with practical real life solutions for everyday health. It's a simple yet powerful message. Eating real food is life changing and we want to thank you for listening to us today.

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